For those that love and loathe time tracking –

Last year, I was fortunate enough to see Rahaf Harfoush speak at our office about her (then) unreleased book “Hustle and Float”. The book’s tagline describes the title further — “Reclaim Your Creativity and Thrive in a World Obsessed with Work”. The point of her talk certainly wasn’t the point I’m about to make (nor did she say these exact words), but I still think back to it fondly.

Here’s my (very sensationalized) version of that event:

Rahaf: “Do you all use time tracking software here?”

 

Me: “Yup, sure do!”

 

Rahaf: (Some version of how time tracking software encourages us to measure the things that don’t really move our business forward and potentially distracts us from doing the things that really matter or being our most effective selves)

 

Me: **looks at DJ, our CEO**

 

And… here we are, nearly a year later, still using way too much time tracking time.

Time tracking certainly isn’t a magic bullet and 100% has negative externalities that are difficult to even enumerate, but all things considered time tracking is a decent means to an end here at ISL.

And for context, we use an app called Harvest to do all of our tracking. We use it to forecast future projects, help people understand roughly how much of their time they should spend on certain projects, and try to see potential burnout before it happens. I don’t think anyone at ISL would say time tracking is our secret sauce, but it gets the job done.

You ever spend two f***ing hours tracking time?

Why does tracking our time feel so awful though?

My time tracking workflow goes as follows: pull up my calendar at the end of the day, then think through my day moment by moment, meeting by meeting in an effort to come somewhat close to an accurate readout of my hours.

Others have gone in and blocked off their calendars entirely and just manually port over all the data at the end of the week.

Then you have those real achievers that actually use the in browser Harvest extension to track their time.

Honestly, all options were less than optimal. Ideally, I just want the time tracker to know what I did and call it a day. Well we made the first step towards just that for ourselves:

☠️ Meet Harvest Reaper ☠️

Let’s talk Reaper

Harvest Reaper is an open source application that can be spun-up (relatively quickly) by anyone with a little web app knowledge.

Features

  • Automatically enter all of your calendar events — meetings, heads-down work holds, travel — into Harvest all at once.
  • Entries will inherit your time blocks’ length and translate it for Harvest intake.
  • Entries will ~auto-magically~ use contextual clues from calendar metadata to populate projects and descriptions.

Benefits internally

  • Over 76% of our company has gone into the app and seen what’s going on.
  • Roughly 53% of those users returned to the app the following week! (We don’t track user data in the app beyond simply that they’ve created an account and logged in).
  • If we assume an hour of any individual’s time is worth $100 (super arbitrary) and that it takes an hour a week to do time tracking activities. Cutting that time in half for roughly 20 people would result in a cost savings of around a $1,000 a month.

Where could things go from here?

As this is an open source project, we’d love for people to reach out with requests or suggestions on GitHub.

Full Disclosure: Harvest now has a built in feature for adding events from your calendar they launched, quite literally, two or three days ago at the time of writing this. Their feature is very generic right now; only 1 event at a time, versus our bulk import… plus it can’t guess projects yet. In a dream world they’d make their product integrate more seamlessly with calendar events. But until then we will continue to fear the Reaper.

With that said, if Harvest doesn’t beat us to it, we’d love to see the ability for all events and times to be inferred based on anonymized, previous activity so it’s as simple as coming to your Reaper page, making sure everything looks right, and clicking submit using #MachineLearning, of course.

And that’s Harvest Reaper! We hope you enjoy and please reach out with any questions, comments or concerns.